Editorial: Author Resource Center
To make your title the best it can be will require a lot of talented people and many steps—all of which will be covered in this guide. Please take the time to read through everything here. You'll be glad you did. We promise. And if you still have questions, or suggestions for how to make this guide better, we'd love to hear them.
The Editorial team
If you're here, then you've already received and accepted an offer from your editor for your title. Now what? Your editor will request a contract from our contracts department. Don't be surprised if it takes at least a month for the document to arrive. Our contracts managers are just making sure every aspect of the deal is covered accurately before they send it out.
Not surprisingly, your contract will run a lot longer than your offer letter, which highlighted the main deal points, and will contain quite a bit of legal language. Review it carefully. If you have an agent, you should go over it together. If you have any questions or concerns, the contract manager who sent you the document can help address these. Once you've signed and sent the contract back, Chronicle will sign and return it to you, making it official. You will get paid approximately 30 days after we countersign the contract.
In the meantime, we'll already be starting the process of publishing your title.
You've already met or at least corresponded with your editor. Now meet the rest of your team. Your design manager is in charge of layout and the overall art direction for your title. Your managing editor oversees the schedule, works with the copyeditor and proofreader, and checks the changes at each round. Your production manager works with the printer and handles all rounds from 1st proofs and beyond (more on what these terms mean later). Your creative team works closely together, meeting weekly to discuss the status of their titles.
Got a question about design? Concerned about production? Your editor is your point person from start to finish. He or she will communicate with the rest of the team, and get back to you with answers and solutions.
Early on (often before we make an offer), the Chronicle team will discuss the physical specifications of your title. A book may be paperback or hardcover. A gift item might be a box with a drawer or a spiral-bound journal with folders inside. A title can be printed using one color, two colors, or four. A book might fit in your pocket or be 14 inches tall. There are many possibilities for each title. Our goal is to choose the format that amplifies the uniqueness of the title without being cost prohibitive.
Most likely, you will not be directly involved in these discussions. But that doesn't mean you have no say. If you have great ideas for the final package or insights into what your audience responds to, please share them with your editor. For example, as the author of a video game book, you might point out that serious male gamers favor collector-like packages with colors and design reminiscent of a beloved game. While we will listen to all your suggestions, we may not be able to do them all. Sometimes additional production features can add perceived value, and other times it can detract from the package or drive retail price up too high, scaring off potential customers.
Here is an example of various formats we've published:
- You're a Genius All the Time
- Pictorial Webster's
- Oh Joy! Mix and Match Stationery
- Foodie Fight
- Sukie Iron-Ons
- Sex Scratchers
Are you a fall or a spring? Your title has been assigned to one of these two publishing seasons. With each season comes a set of dates and deadlines that are crucial to selling your title. (See The Sales Season.) These dates aren't flexible, as much as we'd like them to be, which is why it's extremely important that you stick to the schedule that you and the editor agreed upon in the offer and the contract. Trust us on this: just one missed deadline—a late manuscript or incomplete art delivery—can jeopardize the entire schedule and result in missed opportunities, reduced sales, and other mistakes in the printed book.
Not sure when you're supposed to deliver what? Check your offer letter or contract, or ask your editor. Put those dates on your calendar. Tattoo them on your hand. Whatever it takes to deliver on time. Your editor will send you reminders for upcoming deadlines, but ultimately the responsibility is yours.
So what are all these deadlines for? Here's the rundown.
Long before your final manuscript is due, you'll need to provide us with sample materials for meetings with buyers (like Barnes & Noble), trade shows (like the Frankfurt Book Fair), and our internal launches, where we get our sales team excited about your title. These materials typically include 6-8 pieces of art and some sample text, including a table of contents, sample chapter, and a bio. Here is an example of designed sample materials.
Sample materials may not apply to children’s titles; check with your editor.
You'll be asked to deliver an early portion of your manuscript for your editor to review. This is called the early delivery and it comes at a crucial juncture in the schedule, when there is still time to change course if needed. The early delivery should include at least one of every element that appears in your manuscript (for example, a chapter opener, a sidebar, a general introduction, a chapter, a recipe, a footnote). Your editor may decide your work needs revision and ask for another review before the final delivery date. In most cases, you'll receive a payment once your editor approves your early delivery.
For many books, we use the early delivery to begin designing the book. Up to 8 weeks after you’ve delivered your early delivery, you may see preliminary designs of the book. As you finish your manuscript, you can use these preliminary designs as reference for how elements are treated in the design.
Early materials may not apply to children’s titles; check with your editor.
On the final delivery date you'll need to turn in a finished manuscript (including captions, if your book includes captions), artwork, and permissions (if any). Your manuscript and art delivery needs to be complete and organized according to the instructions in this guide. And it all needs to be on time. This date is written into your contract, and is often tied to another payment. Your editor will review your final materials and get back to you with edits and requests. As tempting as it may be to hop on a plane to Tahiti after turning in your final manuscript, please don't. Leave time to respond to questions and make corrections.
Here is a checklist of elements that tend to get left out of final deliveries:
Author bio and photo
Table of contents
Acknowledgements and credits
To ensure a painless copyedit later on, deliver your manuscript according to these requirements the first time around.
If you are responsible for providing art of any kind—photography, illustrations, designs—you may need to schedule an art edit. If for example, you have 500 pieces of art for a book that can only hold 250, you'll need to winnow these down with your editor. If the sequence of the art is critical to the title's success, then you may want to decide on that with your editor. An art edit isn't always necessary; sometimes these things are decided during the design of the title. Talk to your editor about what approach will make the most sense for your title.
If you are providing artwork, you'll need to submit an art log. This helps us keep track of your art and make sure it's correctly placed and captioned in your finished project. Download Art Log
For digital art, it's important to note the exact file name, size, and resolution. Make sure that the art follows the submission guidelines. Download Art Submission Guidelines
For physical art, label each piece and accurately record it in your art log. Also note the type of artwork, as specified on the log. Place all original art in protective sleeves.
A note about submitting original artwork: If your physical artwork is irreplaceable and cannot be damaged, please do not submit it as final art. The physical art we send to the printer is drum scanned and can suffer small wear and tear as a result. We feel most comfortable using a version of your art that is high quality (i.e., we can get good results printing with it), but is replaceable if something goes wrong. Please describe the nature of the art you are submitting so we can assess up front whether we want to print with it.
Here's a sample of an excellent art log.
To show your editor how you want the art and text to work together in your project, submit an example like this one.
If your project is about cooking or crafting, you'll need to test all your recipes or crafts and triple check the accuracy of your instructions before turning in your final manuscript. You'll also need to format your instructions according to our Chronicle Cook/Craft Style Guide. This ensures that your editor, copyeditor, and ultimately the cook or crafter can follow along easily.
In addition to following the directions in our Style Guide, keep these tips in mind when writing cooking or crafting instructions.
1. List ingredients or materials in the order they're used in the instructions.
2. Include metric conversions for all measurements.
3. Use consistent language when describing how to do something. Readers tend to jump around from recipe to recipe, project to project, so if you teach how to chop in a recipe near the beginning, you need to use the same wording every time you chop something in later recipes.
Cookbook and craft books almost always require a well-prepared index at the cost of the author. You can either hire a professional indexer or have Chronicle Books handle it and invoice you for the cost. (See Index.) Indexes are harder to prepare than most people think, which is why we do not recommend that you prepare your own index unless you have been professionally trained in this very specialized skill.
If there are permissions that need to be cleared for your project, you'll need to do this by the agreed upon deadline. Getting permissions cleared can be a complicated process, with many different issues to carefully consider. Before you begin, educate yourself on the subject, and give yourself enough time to wade through any issues that arise. Some authors find it useful to hire a lawyer or consultant to help with this process. While we can share our past experience, Chronicle Books cannot provide formal legal counsel in this matter.
As the author, you are the expert. That means we expect you to thoroughly fact check your manuscript before you submit it. If your title is heavily reported or researched, we strongly encourage you to hire an independent fact checker to verify the accuracy of your work.
With your final manuscript in, your art logged, your facts checked, and your permissions granted, some of the hardest work you'll do on this project is behind you. But you're not done yet. Next comes the editing phase.
As you may have figured out by now, you'll be talking to your editor at every stage in this process. Or you should be to make sure you're on the same page. If something's unclear, if you're going on vacation or you have potential conflicts with your delivery dates, talk to your editor. And be prompt in responding when your editor contacts you, even if it's just to say you'll need a few days to reply. Few things make editors more nervous than when their authors seem to disappear on them for days on end!
At the same time, remember your editor is probably juggling 25 things at the same time. So try not to over communicate with him, or your publicist. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you get a faster and better response:
- Title your emails well ("Need to discuss cover" is better than "Hey")
- Bundle your requests into one email, as opposed to 15 separate emails.
- Make sure that email is the right method of communication. (If you find yourself writing a really long, emotional email…Stop. Press delete. Call your editor.)
- Understand that your editor and publicist won't be able to respond to every question or request right away. But we promise not to disappear on you!
Editors and authors alike dream of the perfect manuscript, one that comes in needing no additional work. In reality, turning your final manuscript into an amazing book or gift product will be a collaborative effort, a loving back-and-forth that takes place in several stages described in the following paragraphs.
Once your editor has received and acknowledged your final manuscript, the developmental edit will begin. Your editor will be looking at the big stuff—tone, organization, scope, content, and length—and deciding if more work needs to be done. This is a critical juncture when your editor connects the lines of the holy publishing triangle: the author, the content, and the audience. This edit can take a day or three months, depending on the length of the manuscript and the level of edit.
After a successful developmental edit, your manuscript is ready to be copyedited. Your copyeditor will review your manuscript for overall organization, style and grammar, editorial consistency, tone, and anything else it may need. One thing your copyeditor won't catch is factual errors, so make sure your work is accurate before turning it in. The copyedit usually takes 2-3 weeks, more time for lengthier manuscripts. When it's done, you'll get your manuscript back, often as a Word doc with "track changes." To track changes, look in the Help section in Microsoft Word for more information. You'll have 1-2 weeks to review and respond to the changes, and address any questions the copyeditor might have asked. PLEASE DO NOT “accept” or “reject” the changes made, but only respond in agreement or disagreement. Your editor is responsible for reading the copyeditor’s recommendations and your responses to them, and for cleaning up the manuscript changes and commentary in a way that does not introduce any new errors or changes in formatting.
Once you've responded to all the changes and answered all the questions in your copyedited manuscript, you'll send it back to the same copyeditor (via your editor) for another review. The copyeditor will have a week to make sure all the problems and questions were solved and answered. Sometimes, we'll send the manuscript back to you one last time.
If your title requires an index, we'll hire and bill you for the services of a professional indexer. This typically costs between $300-$600, though for longer titles it can cost much more. You can also hire an indexer yourself.
As eager as you may be to hand over your manuscript and all the materials that go with it, receive your editor's blessing, and (hooray) get paid, keep in mind you are about to cross the point of no return. The next time you see your title, it will be in galley and (perhaps) then proof form. We'll explain all about galleys and proofs momentarily, but suffice to say it is way more difficult to make substantial changes when the book or gift product is laid out in galleys—and it's extremely expensive and threatening to the deadline to make changes to proofs. So please, please, please make sure that the final delivery is as close to the final product as possible before moving onto the next stage: design.
Your title will have a publicist and a marketing manager. Closer to your release date, you'll hear from your publicist directly. For more information on the publicist and marketing manager's roles, see Meet the Marketing & Publicity Team.
Your involvement in the marketing and publicity process is crucial to the success of your title, starting with the Author Questionnaire. A few months prior to your book's publication, your publicist will ask you to fill this out to help us create a marketing and publicity plan. Here's some of the information we'll ask you to provide:
- Your current, complete contact information, including home and office phone numbers, and email address
- Your travel schedule for the months surrounding your title's publication date, including any events or speaking engagements that might work as promotional opportunities
- A current electronic author photo (in jpg format, minimum 300 dpi)
- Details about your past media experience, including contact information for any friends in the media who would be especially keen to interview you and help you promote the title
- A list of friends and contacts who might endorse your title and give us a "blurb" (quotable quote) to use when promoting the title
- Any ideas or opportunities regarding sales accounts, media outlets, and websites
- A list of conferences and/or events that you will be attending in the six months after your title is published
- Any additional information, contacts or suggestions that you think would help promote your title
Advances for Spring titles due
American Library Association Midwinter Convention
Spring season starts
Bologna Children's Book Fair
London Book Fair
BEA (Book Expo America)
Advances for Fall titles due
Fall Sales Conference
American Library Association Annual Convention
New York Gift Show
Fall season starts
Frankfurt Book Fair
Spring Sales Conference
For most books and non-book products we start selling the moment the contract is signed. Say your book is going to be published in the fall season. A full year before, we try to sell the foreign rights at the London and Frankfurt book fairs (in April and October, respectively). For these shows we'll take your initial delivery (6-8 pieces of art, sample text, a table of contents, and your bio) and design them to look like sample pages from the finished book. We often paste them into a dummy book and jacket it with a designed cover. The better your delivery, the better our sales materials.
Next, we start to sell the book domestically. Your editor will put together a "tipsheet" for our sales and marketing teams that explains why your book is special and why certain people should buy it. The tipsheet includes vital information, including: a description of the book, key selling points, the intended consumer, and author bio. The more information you can provide your editor up front, the more robust the tipsheet will be.
What sort of information is good to provide? If there are thousands of birders out there who would buy your book, that would be good to mention. Or if you'll be the keynote speaker at a well-attended conference where your book can be sold, let us know. Or if your website gets thousands of visitors a month… You get the picture. While it's likely that you and the editor will have already discussed most of these points, the more specific info and stats that you can provide and the sooner you can provide them, the better.
Using this information, your creative team will "launch" your book to the sales and marketing department. Your editor will have five minutes to describe the scope of the book (first book ever on Bigfoot fashion!), important information about you (a billion Instagram followers!), the art or photography (recently featured in Harper's!), and tell funny stories (author once parachuted naked into Burning Man!). While five minutes may not sound like much, it's actually long for a sales pitch. Our sales reps will refine the pitch even further, to about 60 seconds. Books need to be smart, thorough, insightful, funny, and detailed. But they also need to have a good "sales handle," or a one-sentence pitch that someone can understand instantly.
At this big launch (in January for fall titles, June for spring), sales and marketing may throw out ideas that will help your title succeed in the marketplace. Your editor will pass along this feedback to you, and may even suggest making some changes based on it.
The next big event is Sales Conference (May for a fall title, December for spring). This is when we present your book to our sales reps who work for us out of the office. Chronicle has about 20 sales reps on staff and 150 sales reps who work on commission. Each rep walks away from Sales Conference with the pitch, the tipsheet, and materials to sell your title.
Who do we sell to? Everyone. We sell into every channel, from the big chains to the local carwash. Chronicle prides itself on the breadth of its distribution. Here's a rundown of our major sales channels:
- Trade accounts: Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Ingram
- Mass market: including warehouse clubs (Costco, BJ's, Sam's) and mass market retailers (Target, Best Buy)
- Specialty accounts: including Papyrus, Pottery Barn, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, department stores
- Independent trade and specialty stores: including local bookstores, mom-n-pop gift stores
- Various online retailers and mail order catalogs
- International and export accounts: We export our books and sell translation rights to our books to countries around the world. Some of our largest international markets include the UK, Canada, France, Germany, and Japan.
If you see an account that may do well with your title, tell your publicist who can pass the lead onto sales.
Each year, trade reps, book buyers, and publishers from around the world converge at the BEA (Book Expo America) to launch their lists. Famous authors come and sign; celebrities are seen; some books are even sold. It is the official dinner gong for the fall selling season. We also launch our list at the New York Stationery Show (May), New York Now (formerly the New York Gift Show), (January and August), and dozens of other regional shows and fairs.
Chronicle takes these trade shows very seriously. We have an incredibly well-designed booth that stands out in the sea of New York publishers. A key ingredient to looking good at BEA and other shows, and to selling our products effectively, is to have finished books to sell from. Real books allow buyers to look beyond the jacket and title to see what it's really about—and, hopefully, fall in love with the finished object.
Chronicle also has a strong presence in the specialty market, all those stores that carry more than just books. They range from a beachside shop to a national chain like Anthropologie. All specialty stores insist on seeing finished copies of the book before placing an order. We put this in italics because you want them to buy your book. If a bookstore buys your book and it doesn't sell, they can return it to the publisher. Specialty stores mostly buy non-returnable. And they really "merchandise" your book beautifully, displaying it prominently among the other artifacts. It's one out of 30 titles, instead of one out of 20,000 titles in a big store like B&N. They will also continue to carry a title for years and years, if it sells. A book that finds its place in specialty stores tends to sell through and keep selling for years.
So what can an author do to help get a book into specialty accounts and look good at BEA? Deliver on time! (You knew we were going to say that, right?) We want finished copies (advances) in May for fall titles, and in December for spring. That's why our schedules seem so ridiculously long! We're actually getting products in 4-5 months before they officially publish. Yes, there is a reason to the madness. We want your book at BEA, and we want your book in the sales reps' hands as they get into the big station wagon and hit the road.
Twice a year Chronicle sends out royalty statements, and royalty checks for those who have earned out their advances. We issue these statements on or before March 31 (for second half of previous year) and September 30 (for first half of the year). The royalty statement can be, well, a bit tough to follow. We have attached a sample statement with some explanatory notes on it. And, of course, you can always call your editor with questions. This annotated royalty statement (.pdf) will give you a better idea of what to expect and here is our Royalty Department Frequently Asked Questions (.pdf ).